Senate Approves Revenue Package Funding Teacher Raises; Governor to Sign Bill

Article By: Tulsa World

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Senate passed a tax-hike bill late Wednesday to provide funding for a teacher pay raise and a bill to increase those educators’ salaries.

House Bill 1010XX passed by a vote of 36-10. The measure needed 36 votes for the supermajority required.

• Add $1 to a pack of cigarettes

• Add 3 cents to a gallon of gasoline and add 6 cents to gallon of diesel

• Raise the gross production drilling tax to 5 percent from 2 percent.

It also would add a $5 lodging fee per room to hotels and motels that have more than three rooms, which is expected to generate about $44 million for appropriations in fiscal year 2019.

However, that provision is expected to be removed later with a follow-up bill and be replaced with language tightening up online sales tax collections.

Gov. Mary Fallin released a statement Wednesday night saying she “will follow through on (legislators’) courage and action by signing House Bill 1010XX.” The entire package is expected to raise slightly more than $447 million to appropriate for pay raises and other education funding.

The House late Monday obtained more than the three-fourths supermajority of votes needed for tax increases to pass the bill. That was the first time a tax increase measure had met the supermajority requirement in the House since it was put into effect in 1992.

Fallin said Wednesday’s vote was historic, too.

“I applaud the bipartisanship shown in the Senate tonight and in the House of Representatives earlier this week by passing House Bill 1010XX. Those voting yes answered the call from the public by voting teachers a pay raise and putting the state on a solid foundation for the future.”

Teachers have said they would walk out Monday if raises and additional dollars for support staff and schools were not forthcoming, and there still is a plan for that Monday walkout.

Teachers have asked for a $10,000 raise over three years, with $6,000 coming in the first year.

“While this is major progress, this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect,” said Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president. “Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students.

“There is still work to do to get this legislature to invest more in our classrooms. That work will continue Monday when educators descend on the Capitol.”

Fallin said she hopes teachers will come Monday to the Capitol to thank lawmakers. She said it was a much-needed raise.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister also called it a historic day, saying she was very grateful.

“It shows the teachers, who have been weary, worn thin, have been heard,” she said.

She called it a meaningful pay increase.

“One of the most important factors in the success of our students is a quality, professional teacher in the classroom,” said Senate Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus.

“Passing the largest teacher pay raise in state history moves us to No. 2 in the region in average teacher pay and will help Oklahoma retain quality teachers,” Schulz said.

Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, cast one of the votes against the measure.

He said the bill was rushed through the process without involvement of the public.

“I support my teachers,” Dossett said. “My teachers did not support this measure tonight.”

Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, issued a statement Wednesday night, saying in part: “We at the Tulsa Regional Chamber applaud the Oklahoma legislature for passing the largest teacher pay increase in our state’s history. Passage of this historic package will bring our state’s teacher pay up to regionally competitive levels and improve the ability of our public schools to meet the needs of students, business and industry in the long-term.

“The legislature displayed courage and bipartisanship in its commitment to finding recurring, sustainable revenue to fund this package, and we commend our lawmakers’ persistence. We especially thank House and Senate members on both sides of the aisle who took difficult votes, and we thank the leadership who worked to secure the necessary support to approve multiple pieces of legislation.”

The Senate also passed House Bill 1023XX, which provides a tiered pay raise with those with more years of experience getting a larger increase. It passed by a vote of 41-4.

The average raise under the bill is $6,106, according to the Oklahoma Education Association.

Finally, the Senate passed House Bill 1011XX, which would cap itemized deductions at $17,000, with exceptions for charitable donations and medical expenses. It is expected to generate slightly more than $84 million for appropriations, according to House staff.

It passed by a vote of 28-18.